Athenaeum Library Art History Lectures

Art History Lectures

The Age of the Baroque

Splendor and Silence from Caravaggio to Vermeer

Presented by Linda Blair


(SOLD OUT) Mondays, January 15, 22 & 29 and February 5 & 12, 2018 

(AVAILABLE) Thursdays, January 18 & 25 and February 1, 8 & (Tuesday) 13, 2018

All lectures begin at 7:30PM

Due to popular demand the same lecture will be offered two nights per week on Mondays and Thursdays (except the last lecture, which will be on Tuesday).


The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.

                                                                          —Pablo Picasso


The story of the Age of Baroque is a tale of today. To examine the 17th century is to reveal the 21st. Two centuries united by tribalism, sectarianism, and acquiescence to unreasoning power. We shall explore this dynamic period through the lens of its greatest artists. Art has always been the handmaiden of power, a truism magnified in this era, which was all about power—its uses and abuses. The power of grand monarchs, whether Philip IV of Spain, or France’s Sun King, Louis XIV; the power of a monolithic Church confronting the existential threat of Martin Luther’s Reformation; the power of belief and of ideas, and ultimately, the power of great art.


Week One: Monday, Jan. 15 & Thursday, Jan.18; GIAN LORENZO BERNINI

Following an overview of the political dynamics of 17th century Europe, especially the cataclysm caused by the Reformation, we introduce our first, Baroque artist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who fashions our dream images of Eternal Rome. Bernini, so pious he attends Mass every morning, yet sculpts one of the most pornographic works in all European art.


Week Two: Monday, Jan. 22 & Thursday, Jan. 25; CARAVAGGIO

Caravaggio, a supposed murderer who faithfully executes the dictates of the Church’s Counter Reformation...darling of Roman prelates who paints, in the name of religion, blatant homoerotic subject matter. His art is tough to experience—its realism just a little too realistic, too gritty, too underworld—yet his impact on Western art is great. His death results in one of the oddest DNA investigations in Western art.


Week Three: Monday, Jan. 29 & Thursday, Feb. 1; VELAZQUEZ

Called one of the premier artists of the Baroque Age, Velazquez was not a Baroque painter; the only artist permitted to paint the king, his finest, most deeply felt canvases portray the poor, the marginalized, the detritus of society; a Spaniard in the land of the Inquisition, he rarely paints religious subjects and when he does, the works lack spiritual content and aesthetic value.


Week Four: Monday, Feb. 5 & Thursday, Feb. 8; PETER PAUL RUBENS

Rubens, quintessential Baroque artist, acknowledged the greatest painter in Europe, his facility with brush and pigment unmatched. He was as glorious in life as he was in art: confidante of kings, diplomat, linguist, husband of a much younger, beautiful, woman, his brush caressed her body so intimately he ordered her to destroy the canvases after his death. But one she couldn’t part with.


Week Five: Monday, Feb. 12 & Tuesday, Feb. 13; REMBRANDT & VERMEER

Had Rubens known of the ambitious Rembrandt 90 miles away in Amsterdam Surely not. But to Rembrandt, besting Rubens was everything. He spends his first decade knocking out Rubens-like canvases until he finally realizes that what he wants to paint is the soul. Our final artist is Vermeer, chronicler of domestic serenity, his solitary, contemplative women encased in cubes of silence. Unlike Rembrandt, Vermeer did not seek renown yet he achieved greatness. 


About Linda Blair

Linda Blair received her BA from Mills College and her MA from the University of San Diego. She has lectured on diverse topics in European art history for many years, primarily on the East Coast. Locally, she has lectured at The San Diego Museum of Art and UCSD Extension in addition to the Athenaeum.


Joan and Irwin Jacobs Music Room

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

1008 Wall Street

La Jolla, CA 92037



Series tickets: $60 for members / $85 for nonmembers

Individual tickets: $14 for members / $19 for nonmembers


The Monday series is SOLD OUT.


Thursday Series:



Online tickets are subject to ticketing fees.